(WJET/WFXP/YourErie.com) — Students, faculty, staff and parents had their worlds turned upside down during a shooting on April 5 at Erie High School.
One student was shot and taken to a hospital. The school was placed on lockdown, secured by police, and students then were dismissed early. A news release from the school district said the student is in “stable condition.”
Multiple shots were fired at about 9:20 a.m. inside the building. Police are seeking a “known person of interest” who fled the building.
As police agencies continue to investigate the shooting, public figures are issuing statements about the event.
Erie Mayor Joe Schember issued a statement while the students were in lockdown.
“The shooting at Erie High School this morning is very saddening. Schools should be safe places where children learn and grow. I am receiving great updates from Superintendent Brian Polito and Police Chief Dan Spizarny. I know this is difficult for parents to hear. But remember: All students are now safe! We must all stay away from the area until Erie’s Public Schools announces a dismissal process. My thoughts and prayers are with the students, teachers, administrators, and all the police officers who have secured the building. What they all need right now is our love and support.”
About an hour after students were dismissed, the Erie Education Association President Mary Theuerkauf scolded the school for a lack of prevention:
“For years, we have demanded that the City of Erie School District administration and school directors confront the multitude of safety and security threats our staff have brought before them. Each time, we’re told, ‘It will take time, we’re working on it,’” Theuerkauf wrote in an emailed statement. “While they ‘worked on it,’ the life-threatening consequences of their inaction came to a reality this morning for students and teachers who witnessed a student shoot another student in our school hallway. The district’s failure to prevent this has produced a trauma that will echo through the hallways of each building as we wonder where this may happen next. Not only are the lives of the child who was shot and the child who pulled the trigger irrevocably changed now, but also the lives of the teachers and children who witnessed it.
“No bureaucracy is worth a human life. We will not stand by one day more until the safety of our students and staff is properly addressed. This is a demand, not a suggestion, that administration and school board start acting to protect the lives in our buildings.”
Erie Public Schools Superintendent Brian Polito issued a statement about two hours after the students were dismissed.
“We are devastated and angered by this senseless tragedy, and we are all hoping for the full and speedy recovery of the student involved,” Polito said. “I want to thank district and city police for their very prompt and thorough response.
“Incidents like these are a reflection of a troubling rise in youth violence in Erie,” Polito said. “As we ask the entire community to come together to address this challenge, we are working on a comprehensive plan for students and staff to safely return to school. The wellbeing of our students and staff is and always will be our priority, and we will take every measure possible to ensure their safety and security.”
Erie City Council President Liz Allen said she had just left a news conference from the Youth Leadership Institute when she learned about the shooting.
“My first thought is about the trauma that everyone experienced this morning – the shooting victim, the classmates, the teachers, the staff, the police and the first responders,” Allen said. “At the Youth Leadership Institute news conference, I spoke about how important it is to hear the voices of young people as we look to solve a wide range of issues. Gun violence is certainly among those issues. How do we as a community address the immediate needs of those who witnessed the shooting and, now, will miss the rest of their schooling this week? Then, how do we make sure that our schools and neighborhoods are safe? How best can additional resources for policing be utilized?
“The city of Erie has approved American Rescue Plan funding to restart a juvenile unit and to focus more resources on solving gun crimes. The Police Athletic League is having great success in reaching out to youth. But we also need to figure out how and why so many young people get guns and then feel compelled to use them. I hope that young people themselves can share their ideas with Erie City Council.”
U.S. Sen. Bob Casey issued a statement via Twitter.
“I’m monitoring this horrible situation and my office is in contact with local officials, ready to offer support. My prayers are with the family of the victim and the students and faculty at Erie High School,” Casey tweeted.
U.S. Rep. Mike Kelly issued a statement from Washington.
“My team and I are closely monitoring the shooting at Erie High School,” Kelly said. “I am praying for the recovery of the individual who was shot and for all involved. Thank you to all the brave first responders who rushed to the scene. My staff has already spoken to Superintendent Polito’s office to offer any assistance we can. The Erie community is strong, and together we will heal from this tragedy.”
The shooting even elicited a statement from the commonwealth’s highest office. Governor Tom Wolf issued a statement via Twitter.
“I am deeply disturbed by the violent shooting that took place at Erie High School today. Students, faculty and staff deserve to feel safe in their school and community, yet gun violence continues to impact all corners of our commonwealth,” Wolf tweeted. “We must do more to stop these horrific shootings. Frances and I are praying for the victim and the Erie High School community. I thank our first responders and law enforcement for their swift actions and ongoing efforts to protect the community.”
State Sen. Dan Laughlin also tweeted support for Erie from Harrisburg.
“Today, I am in working in Harrisburg. But, my heart is back in Erie, with all the students, teachers and families of Erie High School,” Laughlin tweeted.
In an emailed statement, Laughlin wrote: “The students, faculty, administrators and families of the Erie High School and Erie School District are in my thoughts following this morning’s shooting at the high school. Thankfully there were no fatalities, but one student was shot and my heart goes out to them – this should never happen to anyone. I wish them a speedy recovery.
“I thank the district and local law enforcement for the great job they did in responding to the situation, ensuring the safety of all those in the high school. Healing from such a traumatic incident will take time, and the school district has given the high school an extended break from classroom instruction to help with that process,” Laughlin wrote. “Though the cause of the violence is currently unknown, it again illustrates we need to give our schools the resources and tools they need to provide for the safety of our children and teachers. It’s my hope that everyone will do what they can for the school and the community to emerge from this tragedy stronger and more united.”
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State Rep. Ryan Bizzarro issued a statement via email.
“Students and staff need to feel safe in school, and today that feeling was shattered. I am grateful that the injured student is in good condition and getting the treatment needed. Thank you to the staff and police who quickly and safely evacuated the students,” Bizzarro wrote. “For years I have fought for funding to secure our schools, but this tragedy proves we haven’t yet met the need. Schools need systems, training and equipment to meet threats and respond to the mental health needs of students.
“Please keep the students, staff and first responders in your prayers as they deal with this trauma that hits close to home.”